When the Yankees signed Carlos Rodon last year, they envisioned a dominant rotation for the foreseeable future. Led by Gerrit Cole, the theoretical staff would also feature a combination of Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, Carlos Rodon, Domingo German, and Frankie Montas. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. As of Saturday, three of those pitchers are on the IL, German has been placed on the restricted list (likely ending his season), and Severino sports an ERA of 8.06. Not exactly the dominance the team had in mind.
Yankees general manager, Brian Cashman has taken a lot of heat lately, and rightly so. The Yankees’ current roster construction has led to a surplus of aging bats who have underperformed. Cashman has also previously tried to bolster the pitching staff, but acquiring injury-prone pitchers has gone about as well as you’d expect. Before the season, the Yankees seemed poised to boast one of the strongest starting rotations in baseball. But now, the rotation is being held together by AL Cy Young Award front-runner Gerrit Cole and a wad of fading duct tape.
The Trade For Frankie Montas
Frankie Montas was acquired last season from the Oakland Athletics in the hopes of securing a solid mid-rotation pitcher. The Yankees parted ways with youngsters Luis Medina, JP Sears, and Ken Waldichuk to obtain Montas and reliever Lou Trivino from Oakland. The three high-level pitching prospects had shown promise in the Yankees’ farm system before being shipped off. While Waldichuk has struggled all season in the majors, Medina and Sears have each shown a decent amount of upside for the lowly A’s.
As for the Yankees, Montas has yet to throw a pitch in 2023 after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in February. The team isn’t optimistic he’ll return anytime soon. He started a throwing program in June but was briefly shut down when he reported discomfort. Montas has resumed throwing, but he appears to be a ways away from pitching in any meaningful game. It’s looking more likely that the impending free agent may have already thrown his last pitch as a Yankee.
To add insult to injury, Trivino will also not pitch again until at least next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Yankees took a gamble to add two veteran pitchers to their pitching staff. It’s just unfortunate that their gamble did not pay off.
The Signing Of Carlos Rodon
Picking up Rodon in free agency was the Yankees’ biggest off-season acquisition. The lefty won 14 games with a 2.88 ERA for the San Francisco Giants in 2022. He then signed a six-year, $162 million deal with the Yankees after the season. The signing came with a decent amount of risk considering Rodon’s injury history. In his previous eight seasons, Rodon started just 147 games. That’s an average of a little over 18 starts per season. Despite the risk, Cashman and the Yankees saw their chance to add an All-Star-caliber pitcher to compliment Gerrit Cole.
So far in 2023, Rodon’s questionable injury history has proven to be substantiated. After he suffered a forearm injury in spring training, Rodon dealt with a lingering back issue that prevented him from making his first start until July. He started six games for the Yankees before heading back to the IL with a hamstring injury earlier this week. In those six starts, Rodon went 1-4 with a 7.33 ERA. The team expects Rodon to return after his 15-day IL stint. Perhaps Rodon will be able to return to his 2022 form in his last few starts this season. A positive end to the 2023 season for Rodon just might give the team and its fans a hint of optimism about the lefty going forward.
The Yankees’ Starting Rotation Options
For now, the Yankees have no choice but to continue to give Severino the ball every fifth day. To say Severino has had an off year would be an understatement. His 2023 stats are well off his career numbers. With a WHIP approaching 2.000, Severino has become a liability on the mound. But his $15 million salary compels the Yankees to keep running him out there. One option the Yankees have is to convert reliever Michael King back into a starter. He has proven to be invaluable in the pen, but perhaps he can carry that value over into the rotation.
Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez will also get opportunities to make their case for long-term spots on the pitching staff. Brito has been a serviceable option for the Yankees, although he has been prone to the long ball. Meanwhile, Vasquez has shown flashes of brilliance in his limited time. His WHIP of 1.053 in 19 innings highlights Vasquez’s ability to limit base runners. The next two months could make for an excellent audition for the two righties.
The Yankees may also look to a few other young arms to patch the holes in the rotation. Clayton Beeter is one obvious choice. However, the 24-year-old has struggled mightily with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Since his promotion in late June, Beeter has surrendered nine home runs in just 31 2/3 innings. Will Warren may be yet another option for the club. But like Beeter, Warren has had his fair share of struggles in Triple-A as well. He currently has a 5.24 ERA in 13 starts.
With their playoff hopes dwindling, the Yankees are running out of options for staying competitive. No matter how they choose to approach their starting rotation moving forward, they are facing an uphill climb.